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Quarantine and isolation

Students and employees need to understand the circumstances under which the CDC recommends they isolate or quarantine and develop a plan for doing so.

Updated: January 20, 2022

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The university does not provide isolation or quarantine housing, meals, or transportation.
  • Students, particularly residential students, should have a plan for what they will do if they need to self-isolate.
  • Self-isolating when recommended is crucial to the health of the campus community. Completing the COVID support form initiates outreach from the COVID support team for guidance.
  • Based on CDC guidance, not everyone who fills out the COVID support form should isolate or quarantine. Those who are up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms.

With COVID-19 vaccines readily available, the university’s approach to isolation and quarantine has changed. Being fully vaccinated, with a booster if eligible, is the best way to limit the potential for isolation or quarantine and to protect yourself and others from serious illness.

Learn more about getting vaccinated.

Learn more about staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.

As has been true since the beginning of the pandemic, community heath relies on everyone’s cooperation. Widely available vaccines shift roles and responsibilities for isolation and quarantine arrangements.

  • The university’s role is to provide students with guidance and support through the campus COVID support team. Students and employees access this guidance and support by completing the COVID support form. The university is also responsible for providing convenient access to COVID-19 vaccines to help keep our campus community healthy and safe. The university does not provide housing, meals, or transportation for students who isolate or quarantine.
  • The role of students and employees is to understand when they should isolate or quarantine, develop a plan for doing so, and follow that plan if they are exposed or sick to help preserve the health and safety of the campus community.

When to self-isolate

To limit the spread of COVID-19, complete the COVID support form if you:

  • Test positive for COVID-19
  • Develop symptoms of a COVID-19 infection (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea)
  • Are awaiting COVID-19 test results
  • Are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations and are a close contact of someone diagnosed with the virus
  • Have been advised to self-isolate by a health authority
  • Should self-isolate after traveling in accordance with the latest CDC travel guidance

The COVID support team will evaluate each individual situation and provide recommendations based on current CDC guidance.

COVID support form

Completing the COVID support form is an important step in connecting with resources. The form gives the campus COVID support team the information they need to assist students and employees. The support team’s role is to check on the student or employee’s situation, help connect them to resources, and provide guidance.

Anyone who submits a COVID support form will be contacted by the support team. The response time is generally within 24 hours but can vary depending on case loads. Students and employees are asked to promptly respond to communications (text, call, or email) from the support team.

Until you have heard from the support team, you are advised to follow current CDC isolation and quarantine guidance.

Do your part to protect yourself and others by completing the COVID support form when needed. You only need to fill out the COVID support form once during the same isolation or quarantine period. Once that period is over, you should fill the form out if you are again exposed, develop symptoms, or test positive for COVID-19.

Complete the COVID support form.

Types of self-isolation

There are two types of self-isolation:

  • Quarantine is for people who may have been exposed because of close contact with a COVID-19 case, travel, or other reasons.
  • Isolation is for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.

Your health care provider or the campus COVID support team will recommend whether you should quarantine or isolate.

Vaccination status or prior COVID-19 recovery

Your vaccination status or prior recovery from COVID-19 affects CDC recommendations about isolation. If you have reason to believe you should self-isolate, complete the COVID support form. You will receive guidance based on your status from the COVID support team.

  • Up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations: Being fully up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations means a person has received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible. The CDC says individuals who are up to date on vaccinations do not need to quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19 and have no symptoms, but they should wear a mask when around others for 10 days following exposure. The CDC recommends testing at least five days after exposure. They should still watch for COVID-19 symptoms, especially if they are a close contact of someone with COVID-19. If symptoms develop or if they test positive, they should isolate. Learn more about booster eligibility.
  • Fully vaccinated: Being fully vaccinated means a person has received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines and is two weeks past their final dose of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a single-dose vaccine. The CDC recommends that those who are not up to date on vaccinations quarantine for five days if they are exposed to COVID-19 and wear a mask when around others for an additional five days. The CDC recommends testing on day five after exposure. Getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible can greatly reduce the potential for quarantine or isolation, and the university strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more about getting vaccinated.
  • Not fully vaccinated: The CDC recommends that those who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations quarantine for five days if they are exposed to COVID-19 and wear a mask around others for an additional five days. The CDC recommends testing on day five after exposure. Getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible can greatly reduce the potential for quarantine or isolation, and the university strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more about getting vaccinated.
  • Recovered from COVID-19: According to the CDC, people who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and completed their isolation do not need to self-isolate or be tested again for up to three months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within three months of a COVID-19 diagnosis should self-isolate and be tested. The CDC recommends vaccination even for those who have already had COVID-19. Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from COVID-19, and the university strongly recommends COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more about getting vaccinated.

The university recommends that you stay home anytime you do not feel well. When in doubt, complete the COVID support form to receive guidance from the campus COVID support team.

How students should plan ahead for isolation or quarantine

Isolation or quarantine represents a commitment to keeping yourself and others safe. Students will have access to guidance and support throughout the process. They can check their status and provide updates to the support team at covidsupport.utk.edu.

The university does not provide housing, meals, or transportation for students in isolation or quarantine. The campus support team will provide guidance, but students should develop their own isolation or quarantine plan.

Students who live on campus should make their plan and share it with their roommates or suitemates.

Plans should include the following points:

  • How you will stay separate from others. Students in on-campus housing should plan for where they will stay off campus. If you plan to temporarily stay with a family member or friend, let them know in advance and review CDC guidance to protect them from possible exposure. Off-campus students and employees can generally isolate or quarantine where they live but should make every effort to limit contact with others and wear a mask around other people. Anyone in isolation or quarantine should limit trips to essentials and health care appointments and avoid sharing household items.
  • How you will get meals. Restaurant delivery services and food delivery apps are good resources. Popular options with services near campus include Doordash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and Postmates. If you have a Vol Dining plan and have completed the COVID support form, you can ask a friend to pick up food for you from Vol Dining locations. Your friend can give your name when getting your meal and Vol Dining will apply it to your plan.
  • How you will stay on track in classes. Communicate with instructors if you isolate or quarantine. Instructors are asked to be creative, compassionate, and flexible when working with students who are self-isolating. Instructors are notified of students’ self-isolation, but it is each student’s responsibility to communicate with instructors and understand what work needs to be completed. ​Instructors have different approaches to handling absences. Make sure you talk to each of your instructors if you have to miss class.
  • What you will do if you do not have personal transportation. If you do not have personal transportation, plan for how you will make arrangements to get to health care appointments or other essential location. You are advised to limit trips only to essentials. Before using public transportation or ride-share services, carefully review their safety policies.

Health and care

If you develop new or worsening symptoms while in quarantine or isolation, contact your health care provider or, if needed, your local emergency room.

View the CDC’s list of COVID-19 symptoms.

Students with health concerns can call the Student Health Center nurse triage line at 865-974-5080. The university has a nurse available to speak to students by phone 24 hours a day. After-hours care has been arranged for eligible students through the UT Medical Center emergency room, 865-305-9000. Learn more about Student Health Center eligibility and cost.

Always call 911 in case of an emergency.

The university does not provide in-residence medical care. As with any other serious illness, if you need additional support, you need to plan to receive it at home or with your own caregiver off campus.

Your mental health is also important as you quarantine or isolate. Multiple resources are available, including 24/7 assistance for students and employees in distress.

Learn more about coping and support resources.

Length of quarantine for individuals who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations

Based on CDC recommendations, in general:

If you are not fully vaccinated with a booster if eligible and you have been exposed to COVID-19 but do not have symptoms, the CDC recommends you stay home for five days, be tested on the fifth day after exposure, and wear a mask when around others for an additional five days.

Length of isolation

Based on CDC recommendations, in general:

  • If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19, the CDC recommends you complete a minimum five-day isolation period. This isolation period begins the day after your symptom onset or the day after your test specimen collection date if you have not experienced symptoms. To end isolation after the five days have passed, the CDC recommends you be fever-free for a minimum of 24 hours and your symptoms, if any, be steadily improving. After the isolation period, the CDC recommends you wear a mask around others for an additional five days.
  • Close contacts who develop symptoms of COVID-19 should be tested five days after their last contact. If they are positive, the CDC recommends they isolate for at least five days followed by wearing a mask around others for an additional five days.

Each situation is unique, and students and employees should follow the guidance of their health care provider or the COVID support team about ending their quarantine or isolation.

Travel

To avoid exposure during travel, wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently. Clean frequently touched surfaces and monitor your health.

Anyone coming to campus who has recently traveled, whether in the US or internationally, should decide whether they need to self-isolate based on local travel restrictions, the rate of community spread to which they have been exposed, any specific known exposures, their own health assessment, and their vaccination status.

CDC often adjusts guidance on travel. Review the current guidance to assess your situation and determine if you need to self-isolate because of travel.

Learn more about the status of university travel.

Helpful CDC resources

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